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Failed Ignition Interlock Test in 2024? Know the Risks

The consequences of a failed ignition interlock device (IID) test can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the specific circumstances of the failure, and the individual’s driving history, especially regarding previous DUI/DWI offenses. Failed tests commonly lead to increased scrutiny, more frequent calibration checks, and longer mandatory periods for the IID requirement.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

What is an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)?

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is a compact device, roughly the size of a smartphone, that is connected directly to your vehicle’s ignition system [1].

Once installed, it necessitates a breath sample from the driver before allowing the vehicle to start. Should any alcohol be detected in the breath sample, the IID prevents the engine from starting. Additionally, during a journey, it periodically requests further breath samples to verify that the driver remains alcohol-free.

The International Council on Alcohol, Drugs, and Traffic Safety maintains that IIDs when combined with a comprehensive monitoring and service program, lead to a 40–95 percent reduction in the rate of repeat drunk driving offenses among offenders as long as the IID remains on the vehicle.

What Happens if you Fail an Interlock Test?

To successfully start your vehicle with an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) must be below 0.02% during the initial breath test. If the breathalyzer in your vehicle detects a higher BAC, the engine will not start, and you will need to wait for a certain period before attempting another test.

Failing your breath tests multiple times will disqualify you from the program and you will lose your privilege to drive a vehicle for the remainder of your sentence. The same goes if you coerce someone else to blow into the device for you – Agency stated.

Additionally, IIDs require “rolling retests,” which means you must provide breath samples at intervals while driving to ensure ongoing sobriety. Failing or refusing a rolling retest constitutes a violation. Such violations are logged by the IID and will activate an alarm. This alarm will continue until the vehicle is turned off or the test is passed successfully.

Defenses for a Failed Interlock Test

Many believe that a failed breathalyzer test during a DUI stop guarantees a conviction, but this is not always true. Breathalyzer results can be erroneous, and challenging a false positive from such a test is a viable defense in DUI cases. If you’ve been charged with DUI after failing a breathalyzer, it’s critical to engage a seasoned DUI defense attorney to thoroughly examine your case.

Equipment Malfunction
Breathalyzers, like any precision electronic devices, require regular calibration to ensure their accuracy. Inaccurate readings can result from breathalyzers that haven’t been properly calibrated or maintained. Additionally, these devices can malfunction due to their own reliability issues.

Electromagnetic interference can also affect the accuracy of breathalyzer readings. Older models, in particular, are susceptible to disruptions caused by radio waves from police vehicles or cell phone signals. A federal study from 1983 highlighted that many breathalyzers in use at the time were prone to errors from electromagnetic interference.

Health-Related False Positives
DUI defense lawyers are aware that certain medical conditions can skew breathalyzer results. For instance, individuals with acid reflux may register false positives because the device, which is meant to detect alcohol from the lungs, also picks up alcohol emitted from the stomach.

Diabetes is another condition that can distort breathalyzer readings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that diabetics may have higher acetone levels, which some breathalyzers may mistakenly read as alcohol, indicating false intoxication.

Moreover, certain digestive or metabolic disorders can influence breathalyzer outcomes. Auto-brewery syndrome is a rare condition where the body ferments alcohol in the stomach, leading to false positives. It’s important to inform your attorney about any medical conditions you have that could affect the breathalyzer results.

Environmental Interferences
Working with or otherwise being exposed to certain substances, such as paint thinner or gasoline, could also cause a person to show a false positive result for a breathalyzer test. Additionally, anything a person eats or drinks prior to taking the test could affect the results. For instance, a mouthwash that includes alcohol can falsely cause a breathalyzer test to show intoxication. Similarly, cold or pain medications can inflate test results.

Ignition Interlock Device DUI Statistics

  • Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are proven to reduce the incidence of repeat driving while impaired (DWI) offenses by approximately 70% during their installation period.
  • Every state has developed programs to administer these devices and monitor individuals who are mandated or eligible to install them in their vehicles. However, despite these regulations, only around 20% of those arrested for DWI end up installing IIDs.
  • Stricter ignition interlock laws have shown significant effectiveness in reducing the prevalence of impaired driving in fatal accidents. Statistically, jurisdictions mandating IIDs for all convicted offenders have observed a 26% reduction in alcohol-impaired drivers (with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 g/dL or higher) involved in fatal crashes, compared to areas without such laws over the period from 2001 to 2019.
  • Laws targeting repeat offenders and those with high blood alcohol concentrations have resulted in a 20% decrease in such incidents during the same timeframe.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [2].

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